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Trusts urged to adopt whistleblowing code

Whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work is calling for healthcare organisations to become early adopters of its code of practice.

The code calls on employers to maintain the confidentiality of those who raise concerns when requested and provide clear assurances to all staff that they will not face reprisal.

It also calls for greater oversight of whistleblowing arrangements by non-executive directors, or equivalent, and a review of how effectiveness these arrangements are.

The charity has launched “The First 100” campaign to get 100 employers to agree to abide by the code.

Cathy JamesCathy James

PCAW chief executive Cathy James said:  “Organisations in the health sector should already be doing most of what is set out in this code of practice.

“[But] we want to be in a position to champion those organisations who are prepared to commit to the gold standard – this should be an easy race to the top,” she said.

The charity also wants regulators to use the code when assessing the whistleblowing arrangements of those they regulate.

Ms James added: “There is still much to be done to combat the damaging perception that to be a whistleblower you have to be a brave soul prepared to risk everything in order to prevail. We must work harder to ensure that it is safe and accepted to speak up in our public services.”

She also highlighted the Nursing Times Speak out Safely campaign and said she hoped the two initiatives might mean the NHS could “start to turn the corner” on raising concerns.

Readers' comments (5)

  • michael stone

    'She also highlighted the Nursing Times Speak out Safely campaign and said she hoped the two initiatives might mean the NHS could “start to turn the corner” on raising concerns.'

    Is there a danger of a certain lack of cohesion and clarity, if the call for it to be made easier and safer for staff to raise concerns (and for the concerns to be properly thought about) becomes fragmented/translated into a series of different 'policies' ?

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  • Whistleblowing is a very emotive issue when you are faced with something that is fundamentally wrong.

    As a former whistleblower myself, it was not a decision that was taken lightly and regardless of what policies and procedures are in place, the whistleblower generally follows all processes that are in place to protect them, including advice from both their professional regulator and union.

    My example of whistleblowing involved workplace bullying and harassment to the extent where the Trust's Occupational Health recommended that I apply for Ill Health Retirement as a direct result of the severe bullying harassment and bullying which ensued. I followed the Trust's policy fully, as the issue I raised involved approximately 88,000 patients who were being denied the appropriate care they were led to believe they would receive despite a number of other policies and procedures which were in place at the time to protect them.

    The concerns were pursued throughout the whole of the Trust, to which no line manager/manager/director or Trust Board member would acknowledge and rectify the issue raised.

    The care concerns were discussed with the NMC and the Union I was affiliated with and to my dismay neither would support or take up the issues identified as they felt the issues were so big, that they could potentially have a knock on effect Nationally with potentially all Secondary Acute Trusts and neither wanted to have 'Dirty Hands' and take responsibility for raising this issue due to the negative impact it could have on their own organisations.

    Due to this, I wrote to the Dept of Health and Number 10 Downing Street identifying the issues and within a week the CEO had been removed from the Trust overnight, and the following week after this, the Chief Operating Officer was also removed overnight.

    To cut a long story short, all those involved in the cover up, were removed and no-one took responsibility other than me. I do not regret what I had to do or to endure, as I was acting in the interest of the Public, and was successful in court 3 times regarding the issues identified.

    No matter what Policies and Procedures are in place as it is clear with my personal case, that I received no protection whatsoever.

    Who will Police Whistleblower Issues and who will protect Whistleblowers of the future. I find it very sad when all you are doing is following the NMC Code of Conduct and Policy and Procedure and that bullying and harassment continues.

    Maybe their should be a National Register of Whistleblowers in order that protection of the Whistleblower can be monitored by a higher level and that issues/concerns can be investigated appropriately by an Outside Organisation to ensure due process is maintained 'cover up's' no longer take place.

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  • The Trust that sacked me for whistle blowing or rather..COMPLAINING in accordance with their own policies and procedures resulting in the Trust CEO "thanking" me (along with the recognition of social services and the police) for prompting a seclusion review and stopping further abuses (a cleverly conceived cover-up document) following two years of complaining then immediately fired me for having revealed the abuses in the first place...which, among other things included locking a small calm female into seclusion for hours for the apparent convenience of staff. I was then referred me to the NMC who sent their solicitor back to my file and creating a more "NMC" type charge of breaching confidentiality by revealing the identity of an abuse victim and therefore stopping further abuse but without the victims consent .. and placing me on 18 months of practice conditions having already spent 18 months on career busting interim conditions but which now requires confidentiality training within a new personal development plan and a requirement that I convincingly report back what I have learned lest the conditions become permanent. However, should I be reported in the interim for anything at all I'll presumably be suspended or struck off.
    And the Trust that fired me? ..they promptly signed up to the WB code.

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  • Anonymous | 1-Apr-2014 6:34 pm

    Cannot agree with you more - I'm still waiting to hear outcome of my ill-health retirement application, but I had health and a career until I dared to whistle-blow. I now have my integrity, but that is it.
    In the news this week was the whistleblowing cardiologist who won his employment tribunal against unfair dismissal, yet his employer still says they're going to appeal. I bet they have a whistle-blowing policy.
    Policies are a piece of paper - they do not mean the attitude stated in the policy actually exists. Reputation means more to most organisations than their patients or staff.
    My local MP says he hears numerous stories of my ex-employer bullying/intimidating people, but he remains powerless as those same people too scared to go on record. Meanwhile patients and staff continue to suffer.

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  • maybe if enough people came forward and went on record they could stop this practice?

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